Rethinking Writing Instruction

The writing instructor says: “I once was blind…but now I see.”




I used to believe… Now I know…
There’s no way to stop students from writing a mixture of bad sentences and good sentences.


I can prevent students from writing bad sentences by training them to write good ones first.
Careful notes in the margins of papers made a difference Notes in the margins waste my time, which is better spent reading the paper aloud in conference with the student


Students understand what an active verb is Students can understand what an active vcrb is after thorough training and practice.


Students can identify a fragment or run-on Many students can’t tell a fragment from a real sentence, and they must be trained.


Students can tell when a sentence is confusing because it is too long Students must be trained to look at long sentences and check them for clarity.


You have to let students write their confusing first drafts and then improve them during revision. You prevent students from writing confusing drafts—by insisting on short clear sentences from the first day of class.


Modest improvements in writing are possible in freshman comp. Dramatic improvement in writing is possible in freshman comp.



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Readable Writing Press
John G. Maguire
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